Opinion: Disney price hikes about more than profit

Posted Tuesday, October 6, 2015 10:27 AM | Contributed by Jeff

From the piece:

While profits are undeniably at the heart of these changes, they’re also about simple crowd control. If you glance at many of the negative reviews of Walt Disney World or Disneyland at sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor, you’ll see that people complain nearly as often about the parks being overcrowded as they do about them being overpriced. Maddening crowds and long lines can make theme park visitors miserable, and the “solution” Disney seems to be settling on is a win-win for the company: Raise prices so high that the parks will be full (but not overfull) of just the right (high-paying) customers.

Read more from Time.

Thursday, October 22, 2015 1:36 PM
Jeff's avatar

Sure, so it's not correct to say that its "out of reach" for some majority or other arbitrary number of people. I get what Josh is saying about enjoying yourself, but seeing people eat packed sandwiches in the shadow of Cinderella Castle is hardly rare either.

Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Silly Nonsense

Thursday, October 22, 2015 1:43 PM
Raven-Phile's avatar

That's another thing that gets me. If you're eating packed sandwiches, you're probably not staying on site, because there's not much of a place for food storage unless you're in a villa or a Ft. Wilderness cabin.

You're right, though - WDW is a totally interesting dynamic. Some people will go, barely scraping by, and skimp on food and souvenirs. Others will go, stay at the cheapest possible resort, and go all out on dining. There are others, still, who haven't a care or monetary worry in the world that will live it up - but at the end of the day, everyone is experiencing the same (basically) Disney World.

R.I.P LeRoi Moore 9/7/61 - 8/19/2008
Thursday, October 22, 2015 1:46 PM

No more than its not correct to say its "in reach" for some majority or other arbitrary number of people. Other than at the top and bottom of the spectrum in terms of being out/in reach. But even then there will be subjectivity in terms of cutoffs.

Thursday, October 22, 2015 2:48 PM
Pete's avatar

I figure that someone making $50k, after taxes (wild estimate) would make about $3300 per month. With expenses broken down like this:

$1500 - housing
400 - car payment plus insurance
450 - gas, electric, phone, cable TV
500 - food, clothing

$2850 - total monthly expenses

That only leaves about $450 each month for other expenses, gasoline, entertainment, etc.

I don't see how someone could afford a Disney vacation on that, unless you live a life of totally skimping or denying yourself of everything. A vacation is not worth doing that.

I'd rather be in my boat with a drink on the rocks, than in the drink with a boat on the rocks.

Thursday, October 22, 2015 3:39 PM
Jeff's avatar

I actually keep track of everything I spend, so now you've got me curious about my own spending. So here's my "minimum" to live (before I bought my current car, which may be considered a bona fide midlife crisis):

17000 - Mortgage, property tax and insurance, HOA, pest control (gotta keep the prehistoric cockroaches out in FL)
6400 - Cars + insurance
1600 - Car energy (gas + electricity)
3700 - Utilities and phone
6000 - Groceries
500 - Clothing
35200 - Total

Keep in mind, I have two cars and a 2,600 sq. ft. house, so already I'm in the realm of "not really necessary." Keep in mind we eat out a lot, so you may have to adjust up the groceries a bit. Still, if the family makes $50k, filing jointly, with two kids, their total taxes even in an income tax state won't likely exceed 15%, so net pay will be $42,500. That's a difference of $7,300. Also, this is my life... I could "find" thousands more by buying a smaller house, ditching cable TV, being more of a coupon clipper, etc. I think you could get that discretionary number to $10k just by downsizing the house.

To be honest, this isn't even about whether or not I think Disney is pricing out anyone as much as it's about my opinion that people often have strange priorities about what they spend money on, especially houses. There is no way I need that much McMansion. We lived for years in 1,800 sq. ft., and even that is probably more than we would actually need.

Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Silly Nonsense

Thursday, October 22, 2015 5:37 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

The fact that your budget includes 6 lines tells me you're operating in a different realm.

Immediately, I find the groceries suspect. But you said you eat out a lot. What about sundries and stuff like that? Does that go under groceries or are you anti-soap?

Utilities seems to be the biggest discepancy against what we spend. No idea how you're covering it all for ~$300 per month. My garbage bill alone is a little over $400 per year. Add sewer, water, electric and gas and I'm already over your $3700. Then internet and phones (4 of us means 4 phones - go peek at the cost of Verizon's family plans). Plus, we pay for cable. (admittedly a choice)

Hell, school lunches alone for my kids are $2.80 for the basic lunch. That $5.60 per day at best. I tend to budget it at $3.50 per kid based on their actual behavior in choosing lunches. So yeah, our budget includes $150 per month for just school lunches. (180 school days x $7 = $1260 per year on school lunches) Then there's the mandatory supplies each fall. And school fees. And activity fees.

  • Groceries
  • Restaurants
  • Pet Food
  • Mortgage
  • Rent
  • Property Taxes
  • Household Repairs
  • Furnishings
  • HOA Dues
  • Electricity
  • Water
  • Heating
  • Garbage
  • Phones
  • Cable
  • Internet
  • Children’s Clothing
  • Adults’ Clothing
  • Fuel
  • Oil Changes
  • Maintenance
  • Parking Fees
  • Repairs
  • DMV Fees
  • Primary Care
  • Dental Care
  • Specialty Care
  • Medication
  • Pet Care
  • Health Insurance
  • Homeowner’s Insurance
  • Auto Insurance
  • Life Insurance
  • Tools
  • Cleaning Supplies
  • Dishwasher Detergent
  • Laundry Detergent
  • Toiletries
  • Personal Care (haircuts, etc)
  • Subscriptions
  • Retirement/Savings
  • Schooling/School Fees
  • School Supplies
  • School Lunches
  • Job Expenses
  • Hobbies
  • Toys
  • Entertainment
  • Gifts
  • Donations

The fact that so much of that is incedental to you says, to me, that yeah, it might be a little bit of 'out of touch' happening - you're not even considering things that most people have to budget for.

Thursday, October 22, 2015 5:55 PM
Jeff's avatar

Bathroom stuff is in groceries, as well as cat food. I grouped some things for convenience, but I'm not leaving anything out. Add another $2k for therapy for my kid, I guess. The rest that I spend is entirely optional.

Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Silly Nonsense

Thursday, October 22, 2015 6:11 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

Jeff said:

The rest that I spend is entirely optional.

Or things that you're fortunate enough to not have to consciously think about - which I still suspect is more the case comparing against the list I so lovingly copied and pasted above.

Plus, being in a better financial situation makes it possible to keep cost lower by putting larger down payments on things, for example. Most peope don't have the fluidity to save an entire downpayment on their house in one year - regardless of how realistic they're being.

I get what you're saying though and I don't necessarily disagree. But while "those people" are too far on one side, I feel like you're a little too far on the other and the reality for most is more in the middle.

Thursday, October 22, 2015 6:55 PM

I think there's a difference between affordable and "can be had if you want it badly enough".

Thursday, October 22, 2015 8:28 PM
Jeff's avatar

I'm not sure why you think I'm leaving things out, Gonch. I log literally every receipt and charge. The stuff I left out is all of the entertainment and vacations and such. And again, I could free up thousands more with less house. I could eliminate car payments by buying a nice used Honda. There is so much optimization I could still do if I had to.

Everyone has priorities, I suppose. Maybe I did Orlando trips in my 20's because I was financially reckless at the time.

Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Silly Nonsense

Thursday, October 22, 2015 8:48 PM
slithernoggin's avatar

Totally agree about priorities. It made perfect sense to me to drive from Chicago to SFNE, Canobie, Palace Playland and Funtown/Splashtown for ACE's 2013 convention, then back to Chicago via Niagara Falls*. Why anyone would travel to Chicago to see the Cubs play this week escapes me. I mean, I intellectually understand the Cubs were in a playoff thing and that's a big thing -- I just don't get why it's worth travelling for.

*I visited the Falls with the family in 1969, the year the Army Corps of Engineers "shut off" the American Falls. I wanted to see the Falls in all their glory.

Life is something that happens when you can't get to sleep.
--Fran Lebowitz

Thursday, October 22, 2015 9:22 PM

I have to chime in here about the utilities thing that you guys are discussing. I live in South Florida which is not too far away from you and my electric is never lower than $250 a month. I'm assuming you have FPL as well which means that your rates are similar to mine. How the heck are your utilities are so low? I mean I spend a minimum of $3000 a year on electricity alone, and that's not including water, sewer or trash. You have to teach me your saving ways.

Thursday, October 22, 2015 9:43 PM
ApolloAndy's avatar

We live in TX where housing is dirt cheap, but our day care bill is literally equal to our mortgage on 2700 sq ft +- $100/mo. I think perhaps another big line item in many budgets (which we are super intentional to avoid) is debt service. Whether it's "responsible" debt like college loans or "irresponsible" like credit card, it can end up taking a large chunk off the top of a paycheck. And don't me started on medical bills for the kids.

Last edited by ApolloAndy, Thursday, October 22, 2015 9:43 PM

Hobbes: "What's the point of attaching a number to everything you do?"
Calvin: "If your numbers go up, it means you're having more fun."

Thursday, October 22, 2015 10:06 PM
Jeff's avatar

It's Duke Energy for electric. I want to say it's 11 cents total per kWh for the first 1,000, then 13.2 cents after that. So at that rate, plus the fixed charge, the highest we've had ever was $237, and that was at the point that both cars were electric, for the August bill. Subtract maybe ~$30 for the cars. In January we were somewhere around $90, with one electric car. I'm not sure what to tell you... I don't think we're doing anything special. The house was built in 2014, so I assume that it's as energy efficient as they get these days. I have a friend with a 60's house near downtown that routinely spends north of $300. (In case you're wondering... natural gas is under $25, water (drinking and reclaimed plus sewer) is under $40, trash is built into property tax. Two phones with data on AT&T at $89 total.)

Now that I'm back home and can compare Gonch's list to my records, I did not include the last five line items, but everything north of that was included in the numbers I posted previously other than the therapy. Simon's lunch is packed. Savings isn't so much an expense as it is a flexible but targeted amount (plus payroll deductions and match for 401k). The insurance was all in those numbers, save for about $150 in co-pays. My dining out amount is too high to admit to, and it's embarassing (and probably 60% lunch from work, and 30% theme park food). Haircuts were included as a line item of clothing (I wait entirely too long before haircuts, and often look like a 70's gameshow host). My entertainment spending is pretty ridiculous, but that's the discretionary part.

I still think if we made $50k a year, I could afford to spend $3,000 on a Disney vacation. I wouldn't do it very often, maybe once or twice at most, but I believe I could make it happen. I think Andy's point is the most legit of any case though... debt plays a huge role.

Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Silly Nonsense

Thursday, October 22, 2015 10:20 PM

I'm sending over $200/month just to the orthodontist right now. If my older one had naturally straight teeth like my younger one that could have been a trip to Disney right there if I wanted one. Good thing I don't really want one.

Friday, October 23, 2015 12:44 AM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

If anything, this proves how much variation we all face.

I gotta stick to my initial thoughts/side with these guys on this one, Jeff. It feels like you're not accounting for everything and what you are accounting for is insanely low. But, hell, more power to you. I just don't think it's even close to what the average family faces - and I don't think priorities are necessarily the difference here either.

Interesting discussion though. I genuinely enjoy the varying perspectives.

Friday, October 23, 2015 1:42 AM

Without needing to pull out actual numbers, here is my household budget without children:

20% Housing (Mortgage, Insurance, Maintenance & Repairs)

12% Utilities (Electric, Gas, Water, Sewer, Garbage, Internet, Phones)

6% Taxes (Real Estate Taxes minus Federal/State Refund)

18% Cars (Payments, Insurance, Fuel, Registration, Maintenance & Repairs)

15% Food (Groceries, Out to Dinner)

8% Pets (Food, Healthcare, Toys, Cleaning)

9% Personal (Hygiene, Clothing, Medical, Etc)

9% Entertainment (Vacations, Venues, Movies/Games, Frivolous/Fun Purchases)

3% Emergency Funds

Edit: I should make a note that this does not include expenses or income from my hobby-business building and repairing golf clubs, though it does provide a small amount of discretionary income.

Last edited by CP Maverick, Friday, October 23, 2015 1:45 AM
Friday, October 23, 2015 4:42 AM

This is an interesting discussion and food for thought, but hold up a sec...

Is no one besides me still trying to get past the notion of Gonch with a haircut?

Friday, October 23, 2015 8:30 AM

I glossed over it... assuming it was an example of a "normal" household budget.

This may be relevant as well:

Last edited by CP Maverick, Friday, October 23, 2015 8:31 AM
Friday, October 23, 2015 8:39 AM
Jeff's avatar

Lord Gonchar said:

It feels like you're not accounting for everything and what you are accounting for is insanely low. But, hell, more power to you. I just don't think it's even close to what the average family faces - and I don't think priorities are necessarily the difference here either.

You can think it's low, but this is totally for real, and with a McMansion and cars. Take those out, and you can more than comfortably live on $50k gross per year. Heck, in 2009, I spent six months "self-employed," which is to say I had a few hundred bucks a month left over from the site ad revenue. My wife was making just under $40k at the time, and my mortgage (with taxes and insurance) was $350 higher (less house, much higher rate). We made it work.

And maybe that's what my point is... the suggestion about what "average" is might be part of the problem. Our culture is pretty weird about financial priorities, and I think the average is broken. To bring back a little context, you have Magic Kingdom cast members complaining about wages, but I see them leaving the parking lot in $30k cars. Seriously, why wouldn't they choose a Nissan Versa? A family in my neighborhood, one child, the "big" floorplan, was complaining on the community Facebook page about the cost of their house when they could have "settled" for 1,000 less square feet and knocked off hundreds from their mortgage payment. I worked with a woman who always had to have the newest iPhone to match new clothes, but she would never go out to lunch with us because "money is tight."

I guess I have to ask... if Disney is out of range for people, is it because it's too expensive or is it because as Americans we have different priorities? I won't even judge whether or not they're "wrong" (although I suppose I already did), but is it just that they're different?

Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Silly Nonsense


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